Tsuchiyama, Koka and Shinagawa, Tokyo

Pine tree from Tsuchiyama in Shinagawa-jukuLast weekend, I went to visit Shinagawa-juku 品川宿 in Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo for the first time. Shinagawa was the first post town 宿場 on the Tokaido Road. Shinagawa-juku is near Shinagawa Station.

In Shiga, there are many shukuba-machi like Kusatsu , Minakuchi , and Samegai because we have the Nakasendo and Tokaido passing through. I’ve visited most of them and most of them have some shukuba-like traditional buildings such as the impressive Honjin guesthouse in Kusatsu.

So when I visited Shinagawa-juku, I was disappointed to see that there was nothing traditional. Everything was very modern and it looks like any ordinary street in Japan. But the people in Shinagawa-juku are very proud about the history of Shinagawa-juku and they have a tourist information office near the entrance of the Tokaido Road. They also have a walking map for Shinagawa-juku and signs in Japanese (sometimes English too) explaining about various historical spots in Shinagawa-juku.

There are also several pine trees along the old Tokaido Road in Shinagawa-juku. They were all donated to Shinagawa-juku from other shukuba-machi on the Tokaido Road. And one of the pine trees came from Tsuchiyama in Koka! The other pine trees came from Oiso, Hamamatsu, and Mishima. Tsuchiyama is the 49th post town on the Tokaido (there are 53 post towns in total).

Pine tree in ShinagawaThe Tsuchiyama pine tree is at the site of Shinagawa-juku’s Honjin (see photo) which is now an empty space. (Looks very lonely.) I’ve never visited Tsuchiyama. Hope to go there soon.

See photos of Shinagawa-juku here.

Tokaido 東海道 – Major route which connected Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto during the Edo Period. Before train lines, people traveled on foot or horse. It took days to reach the destination so the travelers required lodging along the way. The Tokaido had 53 towns or stages called shukuba which provided lodging, food, and entertainment.

Shukuba 宿場 – Post town or stage town. Since Shiga is next to Kyoto with both the Nakasendo and Tokaido Roads passing through, there are many shukuba-machi towns. Nakasendo in Shiga includes KashiwabaraSamegaiToriimotoMusaMoriyamaKusatsu, and Otsu. And Tokaido has Tsuchiyama, MinakuchiIshibeKusatsu, and Otsu. The Hokkoku Kaido which goes to the Hokuriku region also has Kinomoto as a post town.

Honjin 本陣 – The main guesthouse in a shukuba for VIPs like daimyo lords, Emperors, etc. Luxurious accomodations on a large plot. There is also the Waki-Honjin which is a second Honjin. In Shiga, the Kusatsu Honjin is the finest example.

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